ISIS claims remembrance service attack in Saudi Arabia

ISIS claim responsibility for remembrance service bomb attack on ‘consuls of crusading countries’ that left four people wounded at non-Muslim cemetery in Saudi Arabia

  • Bomb inflicted four casualties at remembrance service in Jeddah on Wednesday
  • The group’s Telegram channel said Islamic State fighters planted the explosive 
  • However, the terrorist group did not offer any evidence to back its claim 
  • Several European diplomats were attending service hosted by French delegation
  • A British official, a Greek policeman and a Saudi guard were among the injured
  • Comes after French security guard stabbed outside Jeddah embassy 12 days ago

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a remembrance service bomb attack at a non-Muslin cemetery in Saudi Arabia that left four people wounded on Wednesday.

In a statement issued through its official channel on Telegram, the group said that its ‘soldiers’ had managed to hide a homemade bomb in the cemetery which then exploded after several ‘consuls of crusading countries’ gathered there. 

Initial reports said an explosive was hurled over the wall of the Christian cemetery during a French World War I remembrance service, injuring four people, including one Briton, a Greek policeman and a Saudi guard.

The reliability of the group’s claims have often been questioned, and just because its channel has said it was behind the attack, does not necessarily mean ISIS was responsible. The group offered no evidence to back its claim.

The explosion was the second security incident to take place in Jeddah in the last couple of weeks, and the first attack with explosives in years to attempt to hit foreigners in the conservative kingdom.

A wounded person appears to be on the ground as men in military dress signal to each other at the cemetery in central Jeddah on Wednesday. One of the officers (left) appears to be wearing a British Army uniform

The attack came just 12 days after a guard was stabbed outside the French consulate in the Saudi capital. The same day, three people were killed in a Nice church in one of several recent Islamist terror attacks in France.  

Saudi police said Wednesday they had arrested a man suspecting of throwing the improvised explosive device and that they were treating it as a terror attack. 

Diplomats from the British, Greek, Italian and US consulates were present along with military attachés when shrapnel blew across the cemetery while the French consul was delivering a speech. 

The French foreign ministry condemned the ‘cowardly, unjustifiable attack.’ 

France has been the focus of furious protests across the Islamic world after Emmanuel Macron’s staunch defence of freedom of expression following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by a jihadist over Charlie Hebdo cartoons. 

Men in military dress appear to be treating a wounded person lying on the ground at the cemetery in Jeddah, the Saudi capital

Blood spatters the ground close to wreaths laid for the Remembrance Day service

Saudi police close a street leading to a non-Muslim cemetery in the Saudi city of Jeddah where a bomb struck a World War I commemoration attended by European diplomats on November 11

The outside of a non-Muslim cemetery in the Saudi city of Jeddah where a bomb struck a World War I commemoration attended by European diplomats on Wednesday

Police in Mecca province, where Jeddah is situated, said they feared terrorism was also behind Wednesday’s blast.

‘It is being investigated as a terrorist attack against foreign dignitaries,’ said a police source. ‘Those present included British, French and Greek diplomats. There are numerous casualties.’

The explosive was lobbed into the gathering while the French consul was delivering a speech at the Armistice Day ceremony, according to eyewitness Nadia Chaaya.

‘At the end of the speech we heard an explosion. We didn’t quite understand it at first, but we then realised that we were the target,’ Chaaya told France’s BFMTV.

‘We were panicking and feared there could be a second explosion. We left the cemetery and went out into the street and everyone went their separate ways.’

Photos on social media purport to show a wounded person lying on the ground being treated by men in military dress, as well as blood spatters beside wreaths for the service.

One of the officers pictured signalling to his colleagues in the aftermath appears to be wearing a British Army uniform.

The British person injured in the attack suffered minor injuries.

It is unclear what the status of the other victims is, though the governor of Jeddah has been to visit some of them in hospital.  

 

James Cleverly, Minister for Middle East & North Africa in the Foreign Office, tweeted his reaction this afternoon

While condemning the ‘shameful’ attack, the embassies of the countries involved in the commemoration lauded ‘brave Saudi first responders who assisted those at the scene’. 

The French foreign ministry said: ‘The annual ceremony commemorating the end of World War I at the non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah, attended by several consulates, including that of France, was the target of an IED attack this morning, which injured several people.

‘France strongly condemns this cowardly, unjustifiable attack.’ 

James Cleverly, Minister for Middle East & North Africa in the Foreign Office, tweeted: ‘This morning, a remembrance ceremony in Jeddah was the target of an improvised explosive device attack.

‘I have full confidence the Saudi Authorities will investigate this attack and prosecute those responsible for this cowardly act.’

Saudi state TV broadcast images of security personnel around the walls of the cemetery and reported that the situation was stable.

Roads leading up to the cemetery in central Jeddah were blocked by Saudi traffic police.  

A Saudi attacker was arrested after stabbing and injuring a guard outside the the French consulate in Jeddah on October 29

The French consulate in Jeddah urged its nationals in Saudi to ‘maximum vigilance’ following the blast.

‘In particular, exercise discretion, and stay away from all gatherings and be cautious when moving around,’ said the statement, which was circulated to French residents.

There has reportedly been a similar warning issued by the US Consulate in Jeddah.

‘The US Consulate-General in Jeddah is following an explosion that occured at the non-Muslim cemetery in central Jeddah.’ An image posted online of the email says.

‘American citizens are advised to avoid the nearby area and exercise caution in public places.’

Wednesday’s attack comes after a guard at the French embassy in Jeddah was stabbed on October 29.

On that day, a knifeman murdered three people in Nice and a gunman was shot dead in Avignon. 

The attacks followed the beheading of history teacher Samuel Paty in the Parisian suburbs on October 16 after he showed a freedom of speech class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

President Macron’s staunch defence of Mr Paty and his awarding him a posthumous Legion d’Honneur provoked furious protests across the Islamic world. 

Saudi Arabia – home to Islam’s holiest sites – has criticised the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, with a government spokesman saying it rejected ‘any attempt to link Islam and terrorism’. 

France and its president Emmanuel Macron have been the focus of anger in the Islamic world in recent weeks  

History and geography teacher Samuel Paty, 47, who was decapitated outside a school near Paris on October 16 after receiving death threats for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a lesson

Macron has meanwhile faced weeks of protests across the Muslim world after he declared France would never renounce its laws permitting the caricatures of Mohammed.

Following Mr Paty’s beheading, satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo republished its controversial cartoons. 

After three people were murdered in Nice on October 29, Macron declared that France will not ‘give up on our values’ despite fury at the offensive cartoons. 

In India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia thousands of protesters took to the streets last week to express their fury at the French president.

In Kolkata, last Wednesday thousands of demonstrators flooded the roads and burned effigies and pictures of the French President.  

Last Monday in Jakarta, more than 2,000 wearing white Islamic robes gathered in front of the French embassy to express their outrage. 

Meanwhile in Bangladesh, at least 50,000 people took part in the biggest demonstration yet over Macron’s remarks defending the controversial cartoons.

The protesters chanted ‘No defamation of the Prophet Mohammed’ and burned an effigy of the French leader.  

In Pakistan they also burned pictures of the French president as Prime Minister Imran Khan accused Macron of attacking and hurting the sentiments of millions. 

Protesters burn an effigy depicting French President Emmanuel Macron during a demonstration in Kolkata, India on November 4

Muslims protest against the comments made by Macron regarding caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in Kolkata last Wednesday

Pakistani protesters shouted slogans during a demonstration against Macron in Rawalpindi last Wednesday

Protesters in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, last Wednesday burned pictures of Macron

Protesters in Bangladesh last Wednesday swarmed the streets of Sylhet and demonstrated against the French President’s comments

It sparked a diplomatic row with Turkey, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggesting that Macron needs ‘mental checks’, comparing European leaders to ‘fascists’, and suggesting that Muslims in Europe are now treated the same as Jews before the Second World War. 

Macron told Al Jazeera last week that the strong reactions had come from Muslim nations because people had mistakenly thought that he supported the cartoons.

‘I understand the sentiments being expressed and I respect them. But you must understand my role right now, it’s to do two things: to promote calm and also to protect these rights,’ he said.

‘I will always defend in my country the freedom to speak, to write, to think, to draw. 

‘I think that the reactions came as a result of lies and distortions of my words because people understood that I supported these cartoons,’ Macron said. 

‘The caricatures are not a governmental project, but emerged from free and independent newspapers that are not affiliated with the government,’ he added.

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